With all the talk of income inequality these days, those campaigning for higher wages for low earners love splashy court verdicts against employers paying at or close to the current minimum wage — and they don’t come much more splashy than this.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court just upheld lower- and appellate-court decisions in ruling that a group of nearly 188,000 class members will split a $151 million judgment against Walmart for wage-and-hour violations.
In addition to that whopping sum, Walmart was also ordered to pay nearly $34 million in attorney’s fees.
Back in 2002, former Walmart employee Michelle Braun initiated the lawsuit in the Pennsylvania Court of Common Pleas alleging the company forced her and other employees to work through meal breaks, other breaks and off the clock.
Braun and others said the violations occurred from March of 1998 through December of 2005.
A number of current and former Walmart employees testified, saying they were regularly forced to work without taking breaks — or to take shortened breaks — because their stores were understaffed. Some also claimed they had to work off the clock after their scheduled shifts had concluded.
‘Trial by formula’
Walmart officials say the company is considering an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The company is claiming the case shouldn’t have been allowed to proceed as a class action because the current and former employees didn’t have to testify individually. As a result, Walmart claims it was unfairly subjected to a “trial by formula.”
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court disagreed with Walmart’s claims, saying this was not a case of “trial by formula” or of a class action “run amok.” The court said despite the fact that employees weren’t asked to testify individually, their individual pay records were analyzed.
In a statement following the verdict, Walmart said it has enhanced its timekeeping systems over the past decade, and it’s properly paying its 1.3 million employees.
Cite: Braun v. Wal-Mart Stores Inc.